What should I do if my dog is not eating well? Is he just being picky?
If your dog shows a change in appetite or is not eating as much as you think he should be, the first thing to do is to schedule an exam with our veterinarian. Decreased appetite is often an early sign of illness, so we first want to rule out a medical cause. This process includes a comprehensive physical exam and possibly also bloodwork. If your pet appears healthy but just doesn’t eat much, what next?
For starters, let’s make sure that you have a realistic expectation of how much your dog should be eating. If you have a toy breed, realize that a normal meal size may only be a couple of tablespoons. If your dog has a healthy body weight and is not losing weight, he may just be doing a good job of self-regulating his food intake. Often we see dogs that are overweight, yet their owners are concerned because they don’t “eat enough”. A change from the normal pattern always needs to be investigated, but also be sure that you aren’t trying to overfeed your dog.
The next thing to consider is what happens when your dog doesn’t eat his dinner? Do you shower him with extra attention to entice him to eat? Do you offer him extra special treats or table food instead of his usual kibble? If so, your dog may be doing a good job of training YOU. If he has learned you have something tastier to offer (“dessert”), he may skip dinner because he knows there’s a tastier option. Some dogs will skip the occasional meal, yet otherwise act completely normal. It could be a range of causes: disruption in the daily routine, hot weather, excitement, or maybe it’s just an “off day”.
If your dog truly is not eating enough, some simple flavor enhancers may help to entice him. Just realize that you may not be able to wean him back off of these enhancers if he develops a preference. You can add beef or chicken broth (low-sodium, fat-free), a small amount of canned food or a little bit of lean meat to his kibble and mix well. Sometimes warming the food can also make it more appealing since the odors will be enhanced with warming.
This barely touches on the subject of the many reasons your dog may not be eating well. For more information on the subject, contact our veterinarians at (812)330-7297.